This is the second in the series of my features on building a successful business. Last month we covered the basics of business conception; coming up with an idea, and getting that idea off the ground with planning and investment. This month we are going to discuss the topic of “the brand” and how critical it is to getting a business off on the right foot.
The World was built on brands, not bricks.
Take a moment to think of any company you know. Got one? Within a split second, you will remember their logo, their products and, most important of all, what makes that company different. Every single company on the planet has a brand and it is how we are helped, as consumers, to distinguish and prefer a company from its competitors.
What exactly is a brand?
Before we explore what makes a great brand, and how to create one, we first need to understand precisely what a brand is and what it does. The common misconception is that the “brand” means the “logo”. Not the case; the logo is only a part of the brand and is usually referred to as the “brand identity”. The brand encompasses every aspect of how and why a company does business rather than simply what it does.
A great brand delivers a perception of what can be expected for customers who have not engaged with that company before; for example, McDonald’s makes quick and tasty burgers. For customers who already know the company, the brand represents a promise of expectation and consistency in its service and products; you know if you come back to McDonalds, the service will be quick and the burger will taste the same every time. With this in mind, you can start to see that a great brand first sets out a perception in the mind of the customer and then delivers on that expectation, time and time again.
Strong brands aren’t built on sand.
Never ever start a brand — for a business, a product or a service — on bad foundations. Going back and repairing a house built on bad foundations is cripplingly costly and a brand is no different. Take the time and spend the money, if you have to, to get it right and have something special that you and your customers will love for years to come.
I have seen countless businesses that have taken the shortcut to designing a logo, doing it themselves using Windows clipart or chucking £20 to a mate’s son, and ending up with a brand identity that screams “cheap, tacky business”. Given that the first stage is perception, you have got to make sure the customers you are targeting form the right perception of your business; you only get one chance to make a first impression!
What goes into creating a brand?
Believe it or not, a fair bit and the identity/logo should actually come last. Think of the logo as your business summary. To summarise, you first need to know everything else about your brand. When creating a new brand for a client at TFA, one of the first things we do is to get under the skin of the business and the people running it. What we need to know is the purpose of the business; how did it come about, why, and who are the people it serves?
Once we know those things, we can start to look at brand values and style. Broadly speaking, this is a set of words and statements, truths if you like, that define the business. For example, you may run a courier business and the customers you are trying to target may want reliability, speed over the lowest possible price. When you create an identity, it should reflect those aspects – “We are not the cheapest, but you can trust us to deliver on time.” When creating the logo, choosing your colours, your typeface style and any images, make sure all of them reflect this. The test we use is to create a visual ‘mood’ board of all of these things and to ask someone, after glancing it at for a few seconds, what they think the service from that business would be like. Also, you must consider every aspect of how you do business with your customer, what you say, how you say it, and how the whole experience will feel for them.
Once you are absolutely confident you have your brand ‘feel’ absolutely right, you can then create your logo. I strongly recommend you speak to a professional brand agency, such as TFA, as it will be money well invested in your business. Don’t cut corners on the foundations – speak to professionals.
Brands evolve to meet the needs of their changing customers – or they die.
I am going to finish this feature on the subject of brand evolution. Virtually every brand changes and much more often than you may think. If you take a look at the illustration below, like most corporate brands, the Coca-Cola logo actually changes every 5-10 years to maintain its place, and its relevance, in an ever-changing world.
Given your brand is a promise of expectation to your customers, it stands that it has to grow and change with your customers too. Review your brand every few years and ask yourself, does it still reflect what we do, how we do it and why our customers choose us? If not, it needs to evolve. You only have to look at the high street to see that, if brands do not keep up with the changing needs and expectations of their customers, they die.
Be a great brand in the first place and the future has every chance of success. If you need us to help you develop your brand, get in contact today, click here.
Written for, and featured in Pulse Magazine